Life on the Fringes: A Journey toward Orthodox Ordination. Haviva Ner-David, Jewish Family Life Books, 2000.
Life on the Fringes is a book of paradoxes. Haviva Ner-David is
a traditional, Orthodox, feminist woman seeking ordination as
an Orthodox rabbi. She writes movingly of her challenges and struggles,
while holding out her ideal-an Orthodoxy that will finally accept
her-as the only possible road. Because of the paradoxes of her
life, however, the book is also filled with frustrating paradoxes.
She argues for covering her head, not her hair, as a married woman,
which is clearly out of step with the normative Orthodox understanding.
She tries to pursuade that an interpretation of Leviticus allows
her to accept homosexuality- again, out of step with normative
Orthodoxy. She chose to immerse her new-born Jewish daughter in
a mikvah as a covenantal birth ceremony-bringing out traditional
images of conversion inappropriate for a new-born Jew from Jewish
parentage. She claims to be strictly halachic- except when certain
rituals or rules are "sexist", or don't resonate with her personal
sense of meaning. One is simply left wondering, at the end of
the book, why Ner-David doesn't go to one of the Conservative
seminaries and become a Conservative Rabbi. She sounds like she'd
make a very good one.
Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning